Log in / Register
Home arrow Political science arrow Capturing contemporary Japan: differentiation and uncertainty


The spectrum of divination-driven activities or divination-oriented goods and entertainment has generated enormous profit, yet it remains an industry that receives little attention in mainstream business reporting. I believe that we should pay attention to aspects of divination since 2000 that are new or different. Girls and women are a force behind many financially lucrative markets, but this trend is often overlooked because of the “feminized” nature of these cultural products and services. For example, in my study of the beauty industry (Miller 2006), i found that in 2003 there were 173,412 documented beauty shops. By contrast, that same year there were 7,530 wedding and funeral services, 67,789 auto repair shops, and 14,136 software businesses, economic domains that have been the intense focus of scholarly and business reporting and interest, while the beauty industry remained virtually invisible. Although the divination industry is similarly gendered, it is almost always the focus of negative reporting in the Japanese media, where it is trivialized or demonized. The two girls with whom i spoke in the shibuya accessory shop about

The astrological charm referred to Popteen as the inspiration for the selection of such an object. The role of print media, especially magazines and manga, is critical to understanding the escalation of interest in divination and the occult among girls and young women. Monthly manga magazines and publications include special free insert giveaways called furoku. Prough (2011) has discussed how these are used by manga publishers to entice readers. But various magazine publishers also include these inserts, and since 2000 many of the inserts have taken the form of punch-out divination goods, oracle cards, or tarot cards. Several mid-twenties women who were avid connoisseurs of beautiful tarot card decks said they became interested in studying this art because their girlhood magazines often carried tear-out furoku sheets of colorful And unusual tarot cards that fascinated them. They recalled that the free cards were something they and their friends talked about and shared.

By looking at some of the newer forms of divination, particularly varieties of borrowed, hybrid, and reinvented occult practices that have emerged in recent years, we attend to an under-analyzed and gendered industry. Additionally, i hope we might understand the function of divination as a form of entertainment or social play. Thomas (2007) has written about how Miyazaki anime films are a conflation of religion and entertainment. I also see “occult play” as an aspect of the revitalized divination industry.

Similar to divination systems everywhere in the world, the ones consumed by girls and women in Japan are presented in such a way that the prognoses might suit almost anyone. Rather than advocating the efficacy of their forecasting results, many girls and women told me that whether or not divination is true or accurate, they were able to gain some useful insight into a personal situation just by virtue of thinking about it in a focused manner. When they talk about their worries and concerns with someone, such as a divination provider or their friends who participate in a divination activity with them, they feel that they have taken a step toward understanding the issue from a more dispassionate stance, and this step in turn aids them in decision making. Thus talking about their worries within the framework of the divination activity is seen as a legitimate move rather than a self-centered monopolization of a conversation. When the divination activity is framed as a fun, entertaining friendship activity, it also shifts the orientation away from behavior that might otherwise be seen as egotistical self-involvement.


1. All the names used for those i interviewed or spoke to are pseudonyms.

2. Cake Divination (Kēki uranai) at Accessed December 11, 2011.

3. Goo research, “ranking of Divination i'd Like to try” (yatte mitai netto uranai rankingu), at Accessed December 11, 2011.

4. There is a theory in Japan that one reason for the popularity of this native blood typology system is that there is a distribution of the four blood types among the Japanese population that is much less skewed than in some other populations. According to Fujita, tanimura, and tanaka (1978), it is 29.25 percent O, 38.65 percent a, 22.15 percent B, and 9.95 percent aB. Compared to anglo-american and some european populations, the frequency of the four blood types in

Japan is much less bunched into one or two categories as it seems to be in those Populations. However, in terms of worldwide distributions Japan is not unique in this regard. Among Latvians, Hungarian rom, egyptians, Persians, and other populations the blood type frequencies are similar to those found in Japan.

5. Korean Food Divination at life_uranaitop.html. Accessed January 22, 2008.

6. In 2012, the seimei shrine announced on its Facebook page that it was selling a special pretty blue combination amulet–lottery oracle created to celebrate the summer tanabata festival and only available for a few months.

References Cited

Brasor, Phillip. 2006. “weekly Magazines Joust over trillion-yen Fortune telling trade.” Japan Times, March 12.

Dorman, Benjamin. 2007. “representing ancestor worship as 'non-religious': Hosoki Kazuko's Divination in the Post-aum era.” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 10, no. 3:32–47.

Fujita, yoshiko, Masako tanimura, and Katsumi tanaka. 1978. “the Distribution of aBO Blood Groups in Japan.” Japanese Journal of Human Genetics 23, no. 2:63–109.

Gandamu Uranai Chō seisaku iinkai. 2001. Chō! Gandamu uranai (super! Gundam divination). Tokyo: wani Books.

Goo research. 2010. Tekichūritsu ga takai to omou uranai rankingu (rankings for divination we think has the highest predictive value). HTTP://RANKING.GOO.NE.JP/ ranking/010/ fortune_cometrue_2010/. Accessed December 11, 2011.

Itō, yumi. 2007. Kei kā fūsui (easy Chinese geomancy for your car). Tokyo: taiyō shuppan.

Kagami, ryūji, 2000. Shinsei rū-n tarotto senjutsu (Divination art of the sacred runes). Tokyo: Gakken.

Kawano, satsuki. 1995. “Gender, Liminality and ritual in Japan: Divination among single tokyo women.” Journal of Ritual Studies 9, no. 2:65–91.

Kubo, Kiriko. 1999. Dōbutsu uranai (animal divination). Tokyo: shōgakkan.

Kuyōgi, shūkei 2001. Abeno Seimei hiden: Onmyōji “shikigami” uranai (the secrets of abeno seimei: Divination with the wizard's “spirit helpers”). Tokyo: Futami shobō.

———. 2002. Abeno Seimei higi: Onmyōdō jusengu shihō shinsho (abeno seimei's secret tricks: writings on the Four treasures and tools of the way of the wizard for spells and incantations). Tokyo: Futami shobō.

———. 2003. Abeno Seimei Gokui Onmyōdō, katatagae, yakuyoke jusen (the abeno seimei codes: the wizard's craft, circumvention of directional taboos, and charms for the prevention of bad luck). Tokyo: Futami shobō.

Matsukawa, atsushi, and naoki Ogawa. 2011. “after aum 1: Occult subculture Makes a Comeback.” Asahi Shinbun. HTTP://AJW.ASAHI.COM/ARTICLE /behind_news/ social_affairs/ aJ201112070063a. Accessed December 7, 2011.

Midori, Mayu. 2007. Panda uranai (Panda divination). Tokyo: Orange Page Mooks. Miller, Laura. 1997. “People types: Personality Classification in Japanese women's

Magazines.” Journal of Popular Culture 31, no. 2:143–159.

———. 2003 “Graffiti Photos: expressive art in Japanese Girls' Culture.” Harvard Asia Quarterly 7, no. 3:31–42. ———. 2005. “Bad Girl Photography.” In Bad Girls of Japan, ed. Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley, 127–141. New york: Palgrave Macmillan.

———. 2006. Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics. Berkeley: University of California Press.

———. 2008. “extreme Makeover for a Heian-era wizard.” In Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga and the Fan Arts, issue 3: Limits of the Human, ed. Frenchy Lunning, 30–45. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

———. 2011. “tantalizing tarot and Cute Cartomancy in Japan.” Japanese Studies 31, no. 1:73–91.

Murata, satoru. 2012. “Fortunetelling addiction spreads among the insecure.” Asahi Shinbun, april 11. HTTP://AJW.ASAHI.COM/ARTICLE/BEHIND_NEWS/SOCIAL_AFFAIRS/ aJ201204110003.

Nelson, John K. 1996. “Freedom of expression: the very Modern Practice of visiting a shinto shrine.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 23, nos. 1–2:117–153.

Ono, toden. 2007a. Pengin uranai. (Penguin divination). Tokyo: Orange Page Mooks.

———. 2007b. Shirokuma ōra uranai (white bear aura divination). Tokyo: Orange Page Mooks.

Primavera, Marie. 2008. Dōbutsuen uranai (Zoo divination). In Seda (Mook), pp.

30–37. Tokyo: Hinode Publishing.

Prough, Jennifer. 2011. Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shōjo Manga. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

Reader, ian, and George tanabe. 1998. Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

Suzuki, Kentarō. 1995. “Divination in Contemporary Japan.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22, nos. 3–4:249–266.

Taguchi, shindō. 2002. Abeno Seimei chokuban uranai (abeno seimei cosmic board divination). Tokyo: Futami shobō.

Takako and Mirey. 2008. Gārii fū sui majikku meiku (Girly feng shui magic makeup). Tokyo: takeda random House.

Taneda, H. 2000. “Fortune-telling and women: Contemporary Characteristics of Fortune-telling in Japanese society.” Journal of UOEH 22, no. 4:351–362. Thomas, Jolyon Baraka. 2007. “shūkyō asobi and Miyazaki Hayao's anime.” Nova

Religion 10, no. 3:73–95.

Tomono, Kōji. 2007. Neko kyara uranai (Cat characters divination). Tokyo: Kōdansha.

Yanagi, watei. 2005. Onna o ageru! Hanryū “kao uranai” (Just for women! Korean wave style face divination). Tokyo: Goma Books.

Part v

Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >
Business & Finance
Computer Science
Language & Literature
Political science